Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 30 March 2012

Learning On The Job


The young man second from the right in this picture, is my mother’s only brother, Sydney William, known as Billy. He can be seen in several of my other posts where my Mum features as a girl, because Billy never seemed to be far away. Mum was only sixteen months younger and, although they had their spats, they were close, with Billy always looking out for his little sister. Billy left school in 1933 when he was fourteen.Times were very hard in the thirties and many grown men with families were finding it difficult to make ends meet. From 1931-1935 the unemployment total in Great Britain never fell below two million, and at its highest point in the winter of 1932-3 it almost reached three million. My grandfather was frequently laid off and I imagine the family would have been very pleased that Billy was accepted as a tiler’s apprentice, at the Midland Plastering Company in Nottingham. Not something he yearned to do, but then, like now, you took what was offered. There was no question of further education as families needed every penny. Being an apprentice meant that you learned a trade as well. The following year Billy died in an (non-work related) accident in June 1934, and Mum’s final term at school was a very sad one. When Mum left school, she went to work in Boots Offices in Station Street, Nottingham. She had to stand on a box to reach the top drawer of the filing cabinet as she was not very tall. She was the nicknamed Little Cherub and was a bit of a favourite of the rest of the office staff. When Mum finally left their employment, one of the bosses, Mr Lawson, gave her a one pound note and told her to always keep it safe as a reserve for hard times; surely a good lesson for life.

Mum had won a scholarship to the High school in Nottingham at the age of eleven and was very bright (she still is at 91). She would have loved to have taken up the offer as she wanted to be a teacher, but because times were so hard Mum’s dream was not to be. Gran asked Mum years later if she resented the decision. Of course she didn’t; she was wise enough to know that in those straitened times it just wasn’t an option. An honest hardworking family like theirs never went into debt and therefore, like Billy before her, Mum had to enter the world of work when she reached fourteen. It didn’t stop Mum wondering what might have been though, perhaps for both Billy and herself. Imagine how pleased she was when I began my studies at teacher training college in 1970.


 Most of my teacher photos are the posed end-of-year class photos, of me with each year’s charges. The ones above, were taken about twenty years ago by my teaching assistant, probably to show my Mum what I got up to in the classroom. It was a small village school on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, which my own children also attended. Those pupils in the picture were lovely girls and now of course they’ll be all grown-up, perhaps with children of their own. I wonder if any of them became teachers.



Then there comes that day of mixed emotions. In 2009 I retired, after nearly seventeen years of headship in three schools. Hard work, yes, but along the way I had worked with some very talented teachers, dedicated support staff and delightful children. These pictures were taken at the Leavers’ Assembly and I can’t show any pupil faces, except in the lovely book they made for me. Of course, they’re hanging on my word, as you can see.

This week's Sepia Saturday challenge was to use the theme of work. Why not see what other contributors can teach us, before you dash off to work.

23 comments:

  1. It's so wonderful that although your Mum did not have the chance to achieve her dream she saw that dream realised through you!

    Jem xXx

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  2. Thanks for writing such a moving post. It reminded me of my own mother - a very bright woman who passed her 11+ (coming 17th in a London borough), but wasn't even allowed to train as a children's nursery nurse because the money wasn't there.

    You can see why so many people voted Labour in 1945.

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  3. I strongly suspect that many of those children you taught did become teachers. One is always influenced by the role models you have at that age and to be taught by an inspiring teacher would make you want to follow in her footsteps. And to read your blog posts - I know you were an inspiring teacher.

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  4. What a sad story, but with a happy ending. Your mother would have been so proud of you. But it's sad that she never was able to realize her dreams.
    My mom, also a survivor of the depression, had a scholarship to college but couldn't go because she couldn't afford the expenses. Wonder what she would have become had she gone to college. We'll never know.
    Nancy

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  5. There was so much wasted potential in tthe old days but I hope your mum had a happy and fulfilled life nonetheless.- and Ishe must have been delighted that you did so well.

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  6. In my Depression-era family, my great-grandfather made the boys quit school to go to work for him but the girls had to go to college. I never quite understood that, but reading your post brings me a bit closer to understanding his decisions for the family. (I must say, your mom and her brother are 2 of my favorite people I've never met!)

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  7. It seems kind of surprising to me that there was paid work available for young people when unemployment was so high. My parents went to college during the depression, but they had trouble finding work after they graduated.

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    1. Not really surprising. He would have been paid very little and there was always a need to train young people in the skilled trades. Apprenticeship would have been for several years, during which he would be legaly tied to his employer. Sadly for Billy he enjoyed the world of work for only a short time.

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  8. What a touching story. I can only imagine how many students you inspired. I can tell by the photos that you had a good connection with the children. You have so much to be proud of.

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  9. Times today are not quite to that extent perhaps across the pond here, but they are similar and yet the ages have diluted that dedication to take whatever work there is because our young run up big debts going to college, etc then scratch their heads when they graduate that the world is not welcoming them. This was a far different time and yes, they put many dreams aside realizing they were but dreams. Today people insist on living their dreams...are we better for it?

    How good that you have photos of your times in the classrooms. Do any of your former students contact you with a card now, years back?
    BTW, this is the year I am reading a classic by Charles Dickens in honor of his anniversary. So the other day I took from my shelf, The Old Curiosity Shop and a main character is Little Nell. I am not sure I ever read this one, but am now.

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  10. It appears that Billy wasn't that tall either. Or maybe it just looks that way because he's still very young compared to the men around him.

    Nowadays the unemployment rate reaches nearly 3 million in the UK again. Trying to avoid debs is a good advice, sometimes it seems if nobody cares about debs anymore.

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    1. Rob, He was 5’10” according to the newspaper report of his death. I think he’s actually standing in a ditch or drain that was being dug.

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  11. I wish there were more people who really wanted to teach instead of drifting into it. We need more Little Nells in this world! :)

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  12. Sad about your uncle. He looks so young in the photo and I guess he was.

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  13. Such A Crime That We Don't Have Real Apprenticeship anymore.....+ I Can Empathize With The Strangeness of leaving Teaching (I taught for 17 years).

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  14. So sad about Billy and that your mom didn't get to realize her dreams. I'm so glad that you did, though. My sister, Nancy, mentioned (above) that our mother had a similar experience. She always regretted not being able to go to college.
    Barbara

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  15. An inspiring post about what can be achieved by different generations of a family. My wife and I were both 'scholarship kids'who were given a chance by education. I'm afraid that there is still much wasted potential today and that so many expect something for nothing. Two inspiring teachers (one at primary school and one later) kicked (not literally) started me.

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  16. How tragic that Billy died so young. The Little Cherub wouldn't be allowed to stand on a box to reach the top drawer these days! I bet she's very proud of you :-)

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  17. What a nice circle of a wish come true. Sometime making your wish that of another's is indeed fulfilling.

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  18. I first looked at the first picture and thought Billy looked awful young next to the others and reading the story confirmed this. Sad that he died so young. Your story here reminds me more of my father's family than my mother's. My maternal grandpa did better than some as he had steady work in a big company, and took side jobs (accounting) as well. He did have a wife and six (soon five) kids, a housemaid to pay for, and always some relatives living with them. Family existed, back then...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  19. Nell, this is another wonderful, wonderful post. I enjoyed learning more about your family, and especially seeing you at work. I bet that they sure miss you at your schools.

    Kathy

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  20. Hi Nell, a very interesting and in some instance sad story of your family. Glad to see that you became a teacher, as the circumstances prevented your mother to be a teacher. I am sure she was very proud of you when you chose this profession. Now you are retired and I am sure you enjoy it as well.

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  21. It all worked out for the best: if Nell's mother had achieved her full potential and become a career woman, Nell might not hve been here to tell the story!

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